Regret and Guilt
So many troubled eaters suffer from excessive guilt, about eating and other behaviors. If you are overwhelmed with guilt when you think you’ve done something wrong, consider replacing it with regret. In fact, what you feel, more often than not, actually may be regret and not guilt to begin with.
Chapter 5 of my FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK is all about guilt. The goal of this emotion is to signal that you’ve done something wrong so that you won’t repeat the behavior. Here are things you may feel guilty about: hurting a friend’s feelings, playing hooky because you hate your job, telling your roommate or partner you’ll do something for them and purposely not doing it, eating when you aren’t hungry or eating beyond full when you are, lying in a self-serving way. Well, I could go on and on. Dysregulated eaters are all too familiar with guilt and need no introduction to the subject.
You make matters worse when you regularly bash yourself with guilt, when you live in a permanent, guilt-ridden state in which you assume that most, if not all, of the negative things that happen in life are your fault—Dad’s drinking, Mom’s depression, your hubby’s temper, your neighbor’s grumpiness, your co-worker’s indifference, or your kid’s failure to make friends. Sure, cop to what’s your fault. Accountability is a must. But only be responsible for your own transgressions.
Try replacing guilt with regret. What’s wrong with wishing you didn’t do something rather than raking yourself over the coals for your failure? You can regret behavior without attendant guilt that goes with it. It’s a cleaner, healthier, simpler, often more appropriate feeling. Of course, if you tend toward rumination, regretting one thing might morph into reviewing all the regrets you’ve incurred throughout your life. Remember that you can’t change the past, but you can decide how you wish to feel in the present. Think of regret as a more neutral state than guilt, a simple cause-and-effect process: you did something and now you wish you hadn’t. Period. End of story. Guilt adds an unnecessary layer to your feelings which doesn’t move you forward.
Reflect on your behavior today or this week. Have you done (or not done) anything you’ve regretted? If so, stay with simply wishing you could undo the past rather than making yourself a bad person for your behavior. The idea is to register regret, then let it go because you can’t turn back the clock. Don’t worry, you don’t need to hold onto regret or guilt. You’ll remember your errant ways and hopefully try to do better.